The Eighth Man

Weekend in Review

With so much going on this weekend, we had our writers give their initial reactions to the tournaments they attended. The Midwest impressions will be included in the Regional previews. We’ll start in the Southwest:

Texas A&M took down the Wolf Pack Classic in style, defeating Lone Star 90*-10 in the finals. Credit: Ruben Polanco

Texas A&M took down the Wolf Pack Classic in style, defeating Lone Star 90*-10 in the finals. Credit: Ruben Polanco

The Wolf Pack Classic proceeded as predicted with the big Texas teams dominating much of the tournament despite extremely muddy conditions that hindered most offensive fluidity and crippled almost all beater play. Luckily, the rain stopped early and the fields were shifted before bracket play to allow teams to better utilize their on-field chemistry and game strategy.

With a couple of South Region teams in attendance, namely University of Florida, questions abounded on how they would stack up against the Southwest squads. Unfortunately, it still appears they might have a ways to go before they can compete on the same level. University of Florida held No. 1 Texas A&M to a relatively close game during the first few minutes of their match, but eventually Texas A&M pulled away by a margin of 120*-10, and a loss to a fresh-faced Austin Quidditch squad in bracket play doesn’t bode well for their prospects. Florida State University, meanwhile, was able to hold LSU to a low-scoring 60*-10 score line, signaling a side that can make some waves in their region.

LSU showed some new life holding No. 4 University of Texas-Austin to a highly-competitive quarterfinal match. The snitch returned to just a 10-point lead for the Longhorns before the favorites pulled away. If LSU can build up their 2nd string, though, they can easily pull off an upset at the Lone Star Cup.

One of the biggest shocks of the tournament was the semifinal game between Lone Star QC and UT, in which LSQC seemed to live up to a lot of their potential by putting on a very dominating performance and taking the match, 110*-20. They maintained bludger control for the majority and displayed a significant improvement in chaser chemistry from Breakfast Taco. UT has an amazing amount of talent and depth, but their issue seems to be rebuilding all the chemistry they lost from last year and executing better on offense.

The finals seemed poised to be a very close shootout between No. 1 Texas A&M and Lone Star QC, and for a while it was, as neither team scored for quite some time. Then Texas A&M started scoring and kept up the momentum as the snitch got back to the pitch. Texas A&M completely shut down the Lone Star offense through very tight marking by cutting out missed tackles almost completely. The new Aggie players have been seamlessly integrated into their playing system, which has provided them a huge advantage this early in the season. It appears that the Aggies are definitely back on top of the Southwest after their 90*-10 victory in the finals.

 

-Mollie Lensing

 

On a fall evening in Los Angeles, the No. 2 Lost Boys easily took home their second tournament victory of the season in a field of potential World Cup qualifiers, showing themselves to be early favorites to dominate the Western Regionals.  The story for this team is not that they won, it was how easily they won.  Even after losing arguably their best chaser in Jeff Lin to a dislocated elbow early in the tournament, the Lost Boys still consistently ran up giant differentials on their opponents.  The Lomita-based community team was impressive in every phase of the game, but perhaps none quite so impressive as their beating game, which consistently maintained bludger control while still able to provide pressure all over the field.

Other than the tournament favorites, the most notable teams there were likely No. 12 UCLA and No. 14 USC.  UCLA took second despite holding back from showing any new recruits and with star chaser Adam Richardson’s minutes being greatly reduced by a knee injury.  Their beaters were a step down from the truly elite level they were last year, but they should be considered a bright spot in this tournament, as they ended still impressed despite having turned over their entire roster.  USC, for its part, showcased the deepest roster it has shown in a while, with the only notable missing name being keeper Harrison James, who is recovering from an injury.  However, their male quaffle player lines, most notably Ryan Parsons, David Demarest, and August Luehrs, remain one of the most potent in the West, and they only missed out on the finals due to a near loss to UCLA after Parsons was knocked out of the tournament due to injury.

Still, the champions of the day were easily the Lost Boys, who were dominating the other teams even when putting in their second and third lines, showcasing the depth needed to make a truly deep run in Myrtle Beach.

 

-Kevin Oelze

 

Parity seems to have arrived in Beantown, as the Massachusetts Quidditch Conference had one of its most telling weekends of the season, with No. 9 Emerson facing off with No. 16 Tufts and No. 5 Boston University taking on No. 17 Boston Massacre.

Emerson and Tufts have a long history of close matches, with Tufts actually taking both games between the two last season, and Saturday proved to continue the trend. Emerson played extremely strong defense, with every chaser they put on the pitch ready to wrap and take to ground. Eli Page in particular has been a great addition, with an impressive tackling form for a first-year player. Emerson’s physicality mixed with Tufts’ bludger control led to low-scoring games and high-leverage snitch situations.

It was here, at seeker, that Emerson showed improvement while Tufts faltered. Despite seeker beating that gave Tufts more time alone with the snitch, it was Emerson that caught in each of the first two matches thanks to the impressive duo of Nate Charles and Sean Cardwell. The young seeking combination seems to have shored up one of the team’s biggest weaknesses. Tufts, meanwhile, resorted to one of their chasers in the third game – BJ Mestnik – who pulled the snitch quickly at the same time that his team put things out of snitch range, registering an impressive 100*-30 win.

For the Boston University game against Massacre, Max Havlin returned to beater after playing chaser against Emerson two weeks earlier due to a lack of depth that day. The change was tangible, and while the Massacre offense was much more in sync then it had been earlier in the season, Havlin’s aggressive nature wreaked havoc, and keeper Brendan Stack as well as chaser Michael Powell were there to take it to their opponents offensively.

Massacre will accept the 120*-50 loss, but perhaps not the long-term problems that accompanied it. Keeper Griffin Conlogue suffered a broken wrist, while female chaser Vic Kelman went down with a broken ankle. For a team that already lacked depth and only carried an 18-player roster, it’s going to be tough for them to recover with regionals under four weeks away. They’ll qualify, but a run at the regional crown seems a stretch.

Two months into the season, Boston University, Emerson, Tufts and Massacre have played 13 games against one another. All but three have been within snitch range. I don’t expect much to change as the season move forward.

-Ethan Sturm

The Kansas Cup was an incredibly-well hosted tournament.  While the weather started off with frost on the ground, the weather became perfect for quidditch, and a host of teams from a large geographical area came out to play.  Besides the hosts there was Iowa State, Oklahoma Baptist, University of Northern Colorado, Wichita State, Arkansas, Illinois State and the Crimson Warhawks.  Kansas, coming off an Elite Eight season, was the obvious favorite to win, but perceptions were shaken up in pool play after a snitch catch loss to a little known Wichita State side, 70*-60.  Wichita managed to snag the No. 2 seed in bracket play even after they dropped a convincing game to Illinois State, 80*-20, due to their head-to-head with Kansas.

UNC and Illinois State rounded out that pool, while Arkansas managed to go 3-0 in their pool with every game out of snitch range, thought suicide snitches in two of them left a bitter taste.  OBU, Crimson Warhawks and Iowa state rounded out the second pool.  In the bracket, Kansas put things together and began playing seriously.  They ran to the finals in dominating fashion, thumping Wichita on the way.  Arkansas also progressed to the finals.  Arkansas had lost this matchup in several meetings over the last few years, most times by triple digits, and it appeared it was going to be the case again, as Kansas jumped out to an early 20-0  lead in the first minute.  Arkansas fought back with some key players off the bench and a great defensive presence, and took the lead as the snitch came on to the pitch.  Kansas’ seeker Keir Rudolph had 6 seconds with the snitch before being beat, and never laid a hand on him again before Eric Dreggors for the Razorbacks managed the catch and the upset.

Overall, it appeared that there were two teams that could compete when playing at their best, and it was apparent in a great finals game.  Kansas looks good going into Midwest regionals, as long as they can stay focused and adjust their game to compensate for lack of former offensive stars like Hai Nguyen, Connor Drak, and Ronell Sharp.  Arkansas looked good, but will have to be more consistent if they hope to contend with the best of the Southwest.

-Alex Wilson

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